Overview of the 4th Industrial Revolution

Over the past centuries, there have been major advancements that have revolutionized industrial production processes. During the previous revolutions, natural resources were the engine of change in the production system, from an agrarian and handicraft economy, to an industrial and mechanical economy.

The end of the last century begun with the expansion of information and knowledge economy, with the automation of production, electronic, computerization and internet all over the world.

The 4IR is expected to take information and knowledge economy to an extraordinary new level, with the introduction of major technological advancements that present enormous opportunities for new business models, value-production, integrated production structure and IT infrastructure.

The African continent can only harness the full benefits of the 4IR era, if the necessary parameters, instruments and regulations are put in place, on the national, regional and continental level. This will allow the continent as a whole, to:

  • Capitalize on the opportunities offered by the future production of the digital era;
  • Develop tools to mitigate future anticipated challenges; and
  • Be swift to respond to disruptive, unexpected and unknown shocks.

According to a readiness assessment analysis conducted by the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with A.T. Kearney in 2018, countries that have a large and more complex structure of production are considered readier for the future. This is because they already have a structured production base on which they can build upon, which include:

Technology and Innovation; Human Capital; Global Trade and Investment; Institutional Framework; Sustainable Resource; and Demand Environment. Unfortunately, during this assessment, African countries fell in the category of nascent countries, meaning that they lack the production capacity, as well as the key enablers of the production component required to increase their readiness for the 4IR.

In this regard, it is important that African leaders, policy-makers and business leaders identify specific production structures and indicators lacking in their respective countries. This will help identify the areas of major concern, as well as provide a clearer indication of where they stand in terms of readiness, so as to develop strategic mitigating tools to address them.